Congress originally formed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as a vehicle for resolving workplace discrimination cases outside of court. When workers in California experience discrimination on the job, the law directs them to first file a complaint with the EEOC. People must await the outcome of the EEOC review of the case before potentially receiving a “right to sue” letter. This letter comes if the agency decides that the complaint lacked any reasonable cause to go forward with an enforcement action. An analysis of EEOC claims over a 21-year period showed that the agency found no reasonable cause in 87% of complaints.
With the chances low that the agency might take action against an employer, complainants must often wait a long time before the EEOC authorizes their right to sue. The slow process potentially wears down some workers and discourages them from continuing their quest for accountability against a discriminatory employer.
A lack of resources at the agency could explain its low rate of enforcement actions. Funding the EEOC has been a low priority for Congress, which did not increase the agency’s budget, except for inflation, from 1980 to 2017. Only in 2018, did lawmakers approve another $16 million because of a spike in sexual harassment complaints.
The analysis of EEOC data from 1997 to 2018 conducted by Paychex, Inc. might indicate that an employee experiencing discrimination cannot rely on the federal agency to remedy the situation. Legal representation might allow someone to take a stronger stance against an employer that violated workplace discrimination laws. Evidence organized by an attorney might inspire the EEOC to take a complaint seriously. Furthermore, legal assistance could prepare a person to litigate the complaint. An attorney might convince a jury that workplace abuses, such as sexual harassment or age discrimination, took place.